764-HERO - Weekends of Sound
764-HERO, named after Seattle's roadside assistance hotline number, has
fairly quietly cranked out several albums of good but not outstanding
indie rock. Started by singer/guitarist John Atkins after the breakup of
his previous, slightly better band Hush Harbor, the project originally just
featured Atkins voice and guitar along with Polly Johnson on drums.
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, the band was pretty quickly and pretty
fairly pigeonholed as a moodier version of Built to Spill. The addition of
James Bertram (Lync, Red Stars Theory) on bass an album ago has not at all
changed that. In fact, it only magnifies it, mirroring Built to Spill's
increased propensity to rock out and use a louder, fuller sound on their later
albums. There are obvious distinctions to be made (for instance, HERO
definitely do not own as many Hendrix albums as Doug Martsch),
but, more or less, if Built to Spill does not release enough records for you,
you should check out 764-HERO; otherwise do not bother.
The third member causes more changes that just a fuller sound though; it
has also inspired the band to play around with their style a little more, and
as a result the band does not sound quite as samey as they used to. That
should be a good thing, but, for the most part, it doesn't end up working
here. "Leslie" is a very quiet song with muffled, from-the-next-room
vocals that are buried beneath the repetitive, swaying guitar and bass. The
song does little, sticking around for 3 minutes with out much purpose.
"Left Hanging" continues the muffled vocals, this time buried underneath
what sounds like a heavy metal interpretation of 60s go-go, complete with
handclaps. The metal go-go section bounces around fairly entertainingly,
but then the song falls apart, and the listener is given four minutes of
fairly bland sparsity.
These experiments do not take the band that far away from their usual
territory, and many of the other songs are just standard, good indie rock
songs. The album opens with two of them. "Terrified of Flight" is a good
example of Atkins at his best, starting off the song with a spiteful,
descending guitar part while singing the refrain "Okay, so you can start over
your life." The song eventually gains a rosier outlook, both in guitar and
voice, singing "everything was right." The guitar part on "Without Fire" may be
most hook-laden thing Atkins has ever played, poppy almost to the point of
sounding like a Superchunk song.
As decent indie rock becomes increasing rare, Weekends of Sound continues
764-HERO's trend of good but not outstanding music. Unfortunately, that
isn't quite enough to keep it from going in one ear and out the other.
However, it can be quite hard to get your fix of new music of this style these
days, and if such a fix is needed, Weekends of Sound is quite serviceable.